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CULTURE The Israeli Shepherd of the Venice Biennale

kadishmanBy Michael Sierra

Menashe Kadishman, a major Israeli artist also known in Italy as “the shepherd of the Venice Biennale” passed away on Friday at the age of 82.

Kadishman’s artworks are exhibited in central locations and in many galleries in Israel. He is most famous for his colorful portraits of sheep and metallic sculptures.

In an interview two years ago, the sculptor said: “I’m connected to various art movements. Despite this, I have always been authentic and independent. I was influenced by everything; from the land of the Indians, to the line of laundry with tallits in Mea Shearim (one of the most religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem). But in the end I am the same person every day when I get up in the morning. I create myself. Art is not to invent something new every day – This former is good for the high-tech not for art.”

When Kadishman was 15 years old, his father died and he took on the responsibility of maintaining the family. He wasn’t able to pay for his painting lessons but he still followed his great passion for art, winning several scholarships. Among others, he studied with the Israeli sculptors Moshe Sternschuss and Rudi Lehmann.
In 1959, he moved to London, where he also studied with Anthony Caro and Butler. In London, Kadishman had his first exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery.

His sculptures from the 1960s were minimalist in style and so designed as to appear to defy gravity. This was achieved either through careful balance and construction, as in Suspense (1966), or by using glass and metal so that the metal appeared unsupported, as in Segments (1968). The glass allowed the environment to be part of the work. Among his many friends in those years was the artist, Andy Warhol.

In his youth, Kadishman also worked as a shepherd on Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch, an experience that had an major influence on his work and career. In the 1978 Venice Biennale, where Kadishman presented a flock of colorful live sheep. Since then sheep became his artistic “trademark.”

“Kadisshman was not only a great artist but also a great man. He had a big heart, was good, generous and respected many social values,” wrote his great friend Micha Ullman who won, as Kadishman, the prize of Israel for sculpture.

Dani Karavan, another famous Israeli artist, praised his friend Kadishman: “Kadishman was not just ‘Kadishman’, but also a part of me. I had known him since our childhood as we lived nearby. We were always close. He was a great man, such a ‘mensch’ as they say in Yiddish. He had a big heart and was always active, it did not surprise me that his heart was tired. ”
On the professional career of Kadishman he added: “Normally I do not put a sculpture of someone else in my compositions, but when I designed the Habima Square in Tel Aviv with ‘uplifting’ in the center of Kadishman – we were both happy. The death of Kadishman is a great loss for the entire art world. Just the other day we talked on the phone. He was in bed as his legs could not hold him.”

Benner Katz, painter, illustrator and Israeli writer, was a friend of Kadishman from the age of 14. Katz said that his friend “was a kind and generous man. He had been ill for many years, but even when he was sick he painted. He always worked with his hands.”